Flex Jobs Survey: Freedom More Important than Pay

More than half of workers say that they’d like to become digital nomads. In a recent FlexJobs survey, 50% of people said they’d take a pay cut for the freedom to work from any location, and 75% would use a work-from-anywhere policy if provided by their employer. 

And that freedom is valued more than pay. Half would be willing to take a pay cut (50%), increase their working hours (20%), and give up vacation days (15%). Of course, you might not feel the need for much vacation time if you’re working from the beach or a café along a beautiful river walk.

Location and life balance, along with a reduction in working expenses like commuting, make a material difference. Of those willing to take a decrease in pay, 26% of people would take a 5% pay cut, and 24% stated they’d take a decrease of 10% or 15%.

Other reasons for relocating included climate (66%), Nature (50%), social life, attractions, and entertainment possibilities (47%), and favorable taxation rates (51%). Moving to states like Florida (my home base), Alaska, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming, which do not have a state income tax, can save workers an average of 8.9% of their annual income.

The survey also finds that a majority of professionals would relocate to a different city (40%) or state (41%) if given the ability to work from anywhere. Additionally, 16% of professionals would fully embrace digital nomadism, taking the opportunity to work from anywhere in the world. Many respondents value the idea of living in a more affordable location (which balances out a pay cut) or moving closer to their family support system, which can also help with childcare costs or the cost of visiting or caretaking.

It’s probably not surprising that the willingness to give up pay for freedom breaks along generational lines; millennials were most likely to exchange pay and benefits for locational freedom, while 41% of Gen X and 50% of boomers were unwilling to sacrifice anything for the ability to work where they want. 39% of workers said they wouldn’t move at all, even when given the option.

Employers are more inclined to ask workers to return to the office at least a few days a week, citing benefits such as more frequent and more effective communication, collaboration, and internal talent development. Companies are also concerned about letting expensive real estate and office buildings sit vacant.

Experts predict a coming “doom loop” where urban commercial office space vacancies (currently at a record 20%), cause once-vibrant business districts to look like ghost towns. This impacts tax revenues and thousands of small businesses that supported the workforce, such as parking garages, coffee shops, dry cleaners, day care centers, retail establishments, and after work watering gathering places.

But return to the office policies simply create more frustration when employees come in only to be isolated in a cubicle, working through Teams, or taking zoom meetings all day.

They’d rather pick their own location and improve the scenery.

Published by candacemoody

Candace’s background includes Human Resources, recruiting, training and assessment. She spent several years with a national staffing company, serving employers on both coasts. Her writing on business, career and employment issues has appeared in the Florida Times Union, the Jacksonville Business Journal, the Atlanta Journal Constitution and 904 Magazine, as well as several national publications and websites. Candace is often quoted in the media on local labor market and employment issues.

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